|David Suchet and the rest of the cast|
The enigmatic Shaitana (Alexander Siddig) invites three detectives, including Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) and the mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker) to dinner along with four individuals -- two men and two women -- whom Shaitana suspects of murder. Later on they divide into two groups to play bridge, and during one of the rubbers the host is quietly murdered. Now Poirot and the other sleuths must investigate the background of the guests to determine who may have killed in the past, and who then presumably killed Shaitana to protect themselves. This adaptation of Agatha Christie's excellent novel suffers because screenwriter Nick Dear thinks he is more clever than the Grand Dame of Mystery, making stupid changes in the story that only weaken the whole project. Like many others, Dear thinks introducing a homoerotic element will make the story seem more "modern" [thankfully it's a period piece, taking place more or less at the same time as the novel], but in this case it only makes it distinctly more dated, even homophobic. Worse, some of Dear's changes make nonsense out of some of the sequences that remain [for instance, without giving too much away, we're supposed to believe that a woman who detests her doctor and wants him brought up on charges will actually go to him to get her inoculations for traveling out of the country! When she probably wouldn't even want to be in the same room with him? Did no one involved in the production ever protest this development?] Dear also makes two of the characters related to one another, as they were not in the novel, in hindsight making their scenes together ridiculous, and also switches the character traits of two other characters for no good purpose. [Changes are fine if they improve a piece or make it more cinematic, but this is sheer arrogant stupidity.] At least the production is smooth and Suchet is as wonderful as ever as Poirot; the rest of the cast is also excellent with Siddig as Shaitana and Alex Jennings as Dr. Roberts especially notable. Zoe Wanamaker seems a little bit closer to Christie's alter ego Ariadne Oliver in this outing, but is still not quite right. Like most of these Poirot episodes this one is entertaining enough but the smarmy changes to the story were certainly ill-advised.
Verdict: Stick with the novel. **.